Carol White – British Film Actress 1943 - 1991.

Its been over twenty five since Carol White’s death and most film fans have probable forgotten her but during the late 1960s, Carol White was considered one of the most promising actresses in British cinema. Born in 1943 in Hammersmith, London, she worked in the entertainment business from the age of ten when she attended London’s Corona Drama School, and within a short time she had made her film debut in a children’s film called Circus Friends (1956). After a wee part as a schoolgirl in Carry on Teacher (1959) she filmed what was to be her first love scene at the age of sixteen in the film Never Let Go (1960) opposite Peter Sellers and, boyfriend at the time, Adam Faith. A number of roles followed including The Man in the Back Seat (1961) and Gaolbreak (1962) before her breakthrough role in BBC TV’s Cathy Come Home (1966) preceded by another BBC TV play Up the Junction (1965) both of which were directed by Ken Loach and launched her on the road to international stardom.
Circus Friends 1956.
Carry on Teacher 1959.

After starring opposite Oliver Reed in I’ll Never Forget What’s is Name (1967) she was signed by Joseph Janni to what was to become her best known feature film the award winning Poor Cow (1967) again directed by Ken Loach. The film deservedly won Carol the 1967 Variety Club Award for the ‘Most Promising Actress of the Year’ Since then she has starred in a number of movies including John Frankenheimers The Fixer (1968) the American filmed Daddy’s Gone a Hunting  (1969) The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970) and along side John Mills in Dulcima (1971).  In 1972 three years after Poor Cow she was again approached by Joseph Janni to play the part of Valerie Marshall in Made (1972). It was a role especially written for her and gave her a chance to improvise.

Unfortunately alcoholism and drug abuse damaged her career, and from the early 1970s she worked infrequently. Carol White died on September 16th 1991 in Florida, at the age of 48.

Beat Girl (Wild for Kicks) 1960.

“Psychologists think most human neurosis comes from too much contact with other human beings” so says wealthy Paul Lindon (David Farrar) who has just brought his new French wife Nichole (French actress Noelle Adam) home following their wedding in Paris. The 24-year-old French beauty is only half the prominent architects age, something that strikes home when she meets Paul’s daughter, the rebellious Jennifer (Brigette Bardot wonnabee Gillian Hills), who immediately takes a dislike to her stepmother. The large austere family home that all three now share has few homely attractions. Jennifer describes it as a morgue with Nichole commenting on the houses barrenness - all of which does not help its repressive constraining atmosphere. 

The films narrative centres on the relationship between the two women and an area of London known as Soho. Nichole has a past to hide that involves an old friend called Greta (B-Movie actress Delphi Lawrence) who is the star performer at a strip club owned by her boyfriend Kenny King (Christopher Lee taking a break from Hammer Films). Jennifer’s frequents the Soho Coffee Bars where mainly spoilt little rich kids hang out listening and dancing to ‘cool decadent jazz’. They include the obligatory working class lad Dave (good use of pop singer Adam Faith in his first film, although his second movie, along side girlfriend of the time Carol White, Never Let Go (1960) had already been released), Tony, a general’s son whose mother was killed in the Blitz, who drinks to much (played by Peter McEnery also in his debut movie, an actor who had a prominent role in Victim in 1961 along side Dirk Bogarde) and Tony’s well bred girlfriend Dodo (Shirley Anne Field who famously played Arthur Seaton’s girlfriend Doreen in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960))   

Directed by French filmmaker Edmond T Greville Beat Girl (1960) or as it was known in the USA Wild for Kicks, is a product of its time with its dodgy script and terrible corny dialog. There were small roles for Oliver Reed and Carol White and a larger one for Nigel Green, best known for his role as Colonel Ross in The Ipcress File (1965) and who also appeared in a range of British movies including the thriller The Man Who Finally Died (1963) alongside Stanley Baker. Also making his debut was composer John Barry with his first movie commission. Incidentally the films soundtrack was the first to be released on a LP (a large piece of vinyl with a picture cover!). Filmed at the MGM-British Film Studios at Borehamwood Hertfordshire its location shooting took place in Soho London with club scenes filmed in the Chislehurst Caves in Kent, Southern England.

 This was another of these films’ that received critically bad reviews but was popular with cinemagoers. It had problems with the censor that delayed its general release. The setbacks were down to displays of topless nudity and strip tease along with scenes of juvenile delinquency involving public road racing and ‘playing’ chicken on a railway line!  The movie was eventually given an adult only “X” certificate; thankfully my copy of the DVD was the uncut version that certainly made it a more appealing piece of British cinematic history.        

Never Let Go (1960)

Carol White was only sixteen when she appeared in John Guillermin's 1960 British thriller Never Let Go and if I remember rightly, still at stage school. She appeared as Jackie, Lionel Meadows’s very young girlfriend someone he continually threatens and abuses, and who turns out to be the weak link in his gangland operation. Meadows, a crooked car dealer who handles stolen cars is played by Peter Sellers in one of his very rare straight roles. Richard Todd plays John Cummings a struggling toiletry salesman who struggles to buy a Ford Anglia that he requires for his job. The car is stolen by a petty thief Tommy Towers (singer Adam Faith in an early Budgie type role) an incident that sets off a series of events that leads to lethal consequences.

British movies of this era were beginning to demonstrate a less comfortable view of the criminal fraternity and a less flattering one of the police. The film reveals how a middle aged family man (Cummings) takes the law into his own hands to extract revenge when, in his opinion, the police are not acting quick enough in solving the crime and retrieving his stolen car. A violent film, with a good original story, that gives an insight into British Society as it entered a more affluent age. Some very believable acting from all involved with Sellers at his scary best, look out for the expertly staged fight scene at the end of the film, great stuff.

The Man in the Back Seat 1961.

The British B-movie was essentially a low budget film, quickly made and destined for the bottom half of the double bill that was the normal cinema programmes from around 1930 to 1965. They were normally shown before the interval and were characteristically shorter than the main feature, anything between 55 to 75 minutes and typically belonging to the thriller or comedy genres and would use the modern dress of the day saving unnecessary expense. These films generally went unnoticed by the critics of the day.  Some studios used them to showcase new talent while some directors used them as a stepping-stone to obtain the ‘glorious heights’ of the main feature.  A small amount of directors who made major films in the 1940’s used B-movies to prolong their careers into the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  One such director was Vernon Sewell who made B-movies with a touch of flair that in fact was missing from many of them.

One such crime thriller was The Man in the Back Seat that was unusually stylish and gripping for a 1961 British B-movie. Malcolm Hulke, remembered mainly for his work on the TV series Doctor Who, wrote the screenplay, along with Eric Paice, based on a story by the English crime writer Edgar Wallace. This extremely well plotted story is a prime example of narrative writing at its very best where one things leads quite literally to the next in a way that never wastes a moment of its 57 minute running time, something one or two of our modern directors could learn from.

The movie is superbly shoot at night in crisp black and white by Reginald Wyer and stars four main named actors, Darren Nesbit (Where Eagles Dare 1968) as the cold hearted Tony, Keith Faulkner, who you will recognise as Bob Cherry in Billy Bunter and Ginger in Just William, as Tony’s easily influenced best mate Frank who in turn is married to Jean a very young looking Carol White, who was 18 years old when the film was released but whose acting skills are already showing great promise. Harry Locke, a well-known British character actor plays Joe Carter the unfortunate bookie - mind you he does not have very much to say, spending most of the film unconscious! 

The basic premise of this tense wee movie involves two petty crooks Tony and Frank in the robbery of a bookie at the local dog track. Unbeknown to our two rather incompetent villains Joe Carter has strapped his moneybag to his wrist by means of a set of police handcuffs! So to relieve the comatose book maker of the evenings takings they have to remove Joe, still attached to his bag, and shift him in the back of his own saloon car: not exactly what they had planned playing yo-yo with the body and all the time digging themselves a bigger hole in which to climb out of. As I intimated before, a cracking B-movie that is a credit to all those involved in it.

A Matter of WHO 1961 UK.

Described as a drama/thriller, the problem is Terry Thomas. Following a string of comedy films Thomas accepted what should have been a straight role to stretch his acting ability but it did not work. It would seem on this evidence quite incapable for him to act out a character that's meant to be taken seriously. But even so that's not to say the film is laugh a minute, just some daft moments that includes a wee vintage car. The main draw back is you can't take Don Chaffey’s movie, A Matter of WHO (1961), as an engagingly realistic thriller, more of a dull unfunny comedy, which is a shame as it has quite a good story line.

World Health Organisation Investigator Archibald Bannister (Thomas) is tasked with tracking down the source of a smallpox infection to stop an epidemic. It’s when a flight lands at a London Airport on route from Nice in the South of France that Stephan Cooper is found to have smallpox. Cooper and his attractive wife Michele (Berlin born Sonja Ziemann) are due to be met by his oil exploration partner Edward Kennedy (American Alex Nicol) - both men work for an Independent Oil Company. The back-story is a B-Movie type criminal plot involving oil exploration rights. 

"Germs are smarter than people" seems quite an adequate tagline. My initial interest in this movie steams from a cast list that includes the underrated Carol White, a special favourite of Movie Ramble. Also featured are Honor Blackman and an early role for Richard Briers. Based on a story by Patricia Lee and Paul Dickson with a screenplay by Milton Holmes it has Roy Castle singing the theme song. Made at MGM British Studios at Boreham Wood, the Alpine sequences were filmed on location in Austria.

Gaolbreak (1962)

Carol in 1962.
Again Carol plays a young wife married to a crook in this B-movie crime drama produced through Butchers Productions who in the post war period right up to the sixties operated as B-movie film producer’s and distributor’s of many modest crime dramas.  This barely remembered 1962 film Gaolbreak tells about a safe robbery that goes wrong. When Ma Wallace (Avice Landone) and her two sons Eddie (Peter Reynolds) and Ron (David Gregory) plan a jewellery raid on behalf of a crooked antique dealer their plans to open a safe at the Barrington auction house are ruined when safecracker Ron and his assistant are arrested in a stolen car and sent to prison for 6 months. The time frame to enable this robbery to succeed is slim and   All three absconders are hidden in a private hospital run by a crocked doctor who Eddie Wallace has a hold over. But when Carol comes looking for her man things start to go pear shape.
cannot wait for Ron to complete his sentence. So it’s decided to break the two men out of prison which goes to plan until it’s discovered that a third man, Len Rogerson (David Kernan) has joined in the escape bid. Len’s girlfriend Carol Marshall (Carol White) is pregnant and he can’t wait until his sentence is over to be with her.

Francis Searle, an English film director, writer and producer who started making one-reel shorts in 1936, was known for making good quality B-movies in the 50’s and 60’s with very little finance and minimal resources, generally bringing them in under budget and within time. The only ‘A’ film he directed was A Girl in a Million in 1946 which was written by Muriel and Sydney Box and starred Hugh Williams, Joan Greenwood and Basil Radford. His sixty minute Gaolbreak is typical of the crime drama’s he was famous for. It does not generate a great deal of excitement and looks pretty tame by today’s standards, even the criminals don’t swear! Although it still warrants a look as one of Carol White early credited roles where her anguished role-playing stands out amongst the more experienced cast members. 

I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name (1967)

How Britain changed since the beginning of the sixties. Just compare the difference between Carol White’s roles from 1960’s Never Let Go with 1967s I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name in which she plays, what was called at the time,’ a dolly bird’ in fact there where quite a few dolly birds in Michael Winners swinging London travelogue including Marianne Faithfull and Wendy Craig. In this movie Carol was listed only behind such luminaries as Orson Welles and Oliver Reed and her role playing Reeds love interest warranted, thankfully, a great deal of screen time.

Reed is not always very convincing as advertising guru Andrew Quint. Quint works for Jonathan Lute (Welles) a monstrous father figure but he’s had enough, so he chops up his desk with an axe and leaves not only the firm but also his wife, children and two mistresses. Going back to a job as a literary agent on a modest magazine he meets secretary Georgina Elben (White) and falls in love. Lute must entice his main man back to win him a prestigious advertising award.

Winner’s film is described as a comedy, but that’s not necessary the case with its disturbing undertones, note the human hunt that takes place at the posh school reunion and footage of atomic bomb explosions and Nazi mass graves. The movie is credited with being the first mainstream film to use the word fuck in its dialogue when Miss Faithfull shouts at Mr. Reed ‘You fucking bastard’ (and you thought it was the Sex Pistols?) Also the Americans apparently were not too happy with a scene that implied oral sex between Reed and Carol White! The 1960’s have a lot to answer for?

Slave Girls (Prehistoric Women) (1967)

Following the success of One Million Years BC (1966), which you may remember starred a scanty clad Raquel Welch, Hammer Films began making a number of historical period pieces which became known collectively as ‘Hammer Clamour” thanks to the inclusion of young beautiful starlets and visual lavishness but done with a minimal budget. One of these films Slave Girls (1967), originally released in the USA as Prehistoric Women, formed part of what was unofficially referred to as the “fur bikini” trilogy, along with When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth (1970) and the film which provided all the left over sets and costumes, One Million Years BC (waste not, want not).

While working as a guide on an African safari a hunter, David (an unconvincing Michael Latimer) ends up a captive of a hostile tribe of warriors who worship the spirit of a white rhinoceros. Somehow or another he ends up back in prehistoric time where bikini clad dark haired women rule, any unfortunate women with blonde hair are used as slaves and entertainment for the cruel raven haired amazon Queen Kari (Martine Beswick). The men are viewed as inferior and are kept locked up! David falls for one of the blonde’s, Saria (Edina Roney) and all hell breaks loose because the queen wants David for her own use (nudge nudge wink wink). Will our intrepid hunter escape from the possessive queen and rescue his blonde bimbo and return to his own time?  

Well if you’re found of b-movie’s, scanty clad girls, a bit of animal worship, coupled with weak dialog, a corny storyline and some dodgy acting this is the film for you. Hammer has certainly made better movies! Directed by Michael Carreras who worked exclusively for Hammer Films normally as a producer or executive producer and only on a rare occasion as director. Why did I want to see this particular movie? Well the reason is that one of my favourite British actresses had a small part in it, in fact a very small part indeed, which surprised me considering how high up the cast list she appears. I must make a point of finding out why Carol White appeared in this particular film considering she was reaching the pinnacle of her career. This film was released after Cathy Come Home (1966) and before Poor Cow (1967).

Poor Cow (1967)

Ken Loach was never happy with this his first feature film but if he had not completed it he would never have developed his own distinct thump print on the many films that followed. Forced by film industry conventions Poor Cow (1967) gave him a lesson in how not to direct for the cinema.

Poor Cow was based on the book of the same name by Nell Dunn and written after Up The Junction, which was made into a Wednesday Play by Loach in 1965 along with two other TV plays The Coming Out Party (1965) and the exceptional Cathy Come Home in 1966. All of which starred Carol White, the last of which was probable the best received of all her work. Based on this previous work with Carol, Loach was happy to cast her as Joy, the leading role in Poor Cow.

Joy is married to Tom (John Bindon) a bullying low class criminal. When he is jailed for robbery she finds solace in the arms of Dave (Terence Stamp). Although a far more sensitive man Dave is also ‘banged-up’ for his part in another violent crime. With her baby son to support Joy is forced to take any work that’s offered including various bar work and some rather seedy modelling for some amateur photographers, the type who have very little film in their cameras! When Tom finally gets out of prison Joy decides, following yet another beating, that her priority in life must be taking care of her baby son so she resigns herself to living a bleak existence with the violent Tom.

Carol White’s interesting account of the film brought home its realism and the touch of naivety that made her such a catch for Loach. I quote from the New York Times dated 10th February 1968 ‘Nell Dunn wrote it (Poor Cow) about a girl she met in the slums, said White. ‘Gosh! I hope her husband in prison hasn’t seen it, because she’ll really get it. I guess he has, though. Do they show movies in prison? We wanted to show what can happen to a girl in the slums. These people really exist. They don’t ask for much in life, but their own lack of knowledge about life and their ignorance about how to get a job and get out of their environment does them in. Even if you’re pretty, your accent loses you the job, and you fall back on the easy way out – stealing, or nude modelling, or hitting the streets. I could’ve ended up like that’

with Terence Stamp.

Loach’s documentary approach got the best out of Carol, and gave her some of the best roles of her career. She stated in her 1982 autobiography Carol Comes Home ‘we had got to the stage where we communicated by telepathy, if something was wrong with a scene we both knew what it was before we stopped to discuss it. I trusted him, we just talked out each scene before we shot it, then we improvised it’ Loach’s biggest regret was shooting Poor Cow in colour, ‘You can’t stop colour being pretty’ He felt that the film would have been taken a lot more seriously had it been shot in black and white. Similar to Cathy Come Home, Poor Cow focuses on the drabness of working class life experienced by the Joys of this world and still speaks for many today. The film treads a thin line between fiction and real life, bringing the social concerns and realism of his television work to the big screen.

While Ken Loach was making Bread and Roses (2000) in Los Angeles he was approached by Steven Soderbergh requesting permission to use clips from Poor Cow in a flashback sequence in his film The Limey (1999) that incidentally also starred Terence Stamp.

Dulcima (1971)

John Mills plays a farmer who has the reputation of drinking most of his money away allowing his farm to fall into a state of disrepair. He meets a pretty young girl called Dulcima (Carol White) who takes pity on him agreeing to become his housekeeper. She is happy to be earning some money and he’s happy to have some company. Eventually Dulcima moves on to the farm initially to save a long walk too and from her parent’s home and to keep out of the way of her bulling father. The farmer finds he's falling in love with his beautiful young housekeeper and hopes that he can persuade her to marry him.

Complications occur when Dulcima starts seeing the gamekeeper from the adjoining estate, a man far nearer her own age, invoking increasing jealousy in the old man. However, one day she discovers the farmer has a large amount of money hidden away in an upstairs room and decides it may be well worthwhile agreeing to marry him, but she begins to fall in love with the gamekeeper.

Directed by Frank Nesbit Dulcima (1971) evokes the late sixties period brilliantly, an every day story of Gloucestershire farming folk with underrated performances from both Carol White and John Mills. This film is only available from specialist DVD suppliers on the internet, worth tracking down if you enjoy a good old fashioned tale of love and jealousy, or, if you’re like me, a fan of Carol White!

Made 1972

I first saw this movie when Hannah McGill introduced this ultra rare showing of Made at the EIFF in 2010 in which allowed us to see why Carol White was regarded as such a great talent. Based upon Howard Bakers stage play No One Was Saved said to based on the lyrics of the classic Beatles song Eleanor Rigby. Valerie (White) feels caught up in a domestic rut, coping with the stresses of single-parenthood and dealing with a terminally ill mother. She meets the rock singer Mike (a rare appearance by singer songwriter Roy Harper) who injects some much-needed passion in to her life. Two other men are interested, one a do-gooding priest and the other a wannabe poet who works along side Valerie at the local telephone exchange. Both of whom she rejects for the freewheeling singer, a decision that will carry an emotional cost.

John Mackenzie, who had worked with Ken Loach on the TV plays Up The Junction and Cathy Come Home and who went on to make The Long Good Friday (1980) gave Made an authentic lived in feeling, social reality with rock music; it would have been interesting to see what Ken Loach would of made of it? Hannah McGill described Whites performance as electrifying, brave and touching to that I must add sensitive and moving. Unfortunately you may never get another chance to see this movie again as its now very rare.[1]

Some Call It Loving USA 1973.

Made between Made (1972) and The Squeeze (1977) Some Call It Loving (1973) was directed and produced by New York born James B Harris who was best known work was as a producer working with director Stanley Kubrick on The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957) and Lolita (1962). The movie was also known as Sleeping Beauty and was based on a short story by John Collier with Harris adapting the story and writing the script. Filmed in California at the John Paul Getty mansion in Malibu it offered the newly pregnant Carol White quite a strong role as Scarlett who was both a religious fanatic and a provoking object of desire who spends a lot of time on screen dressed in a nun's habit with the remainder of her time dressed in a collection of garish, flesh revelling gowns.
Carol with Veronica Anderson.
Carol described this bizarre and erotic adult fairy tale "as a story filled with contradictions in a place where man's fantasies become a reality".  She went on to say that the plot wasn't always easy to follow and though the underlying theme was aimed at the intellect, the more obvious, perhaps more exposed, aspects reached cinema audiences. It explores unconventional sexual and emotional behaviour in the guise of 'game playing' or as Hollis Albert said in the Saturday Review "a film that has some of the most elegant eroticism yet seen on the screen"
Sleeping Beauty.
Zalman King, best known for directing episodes of the erotic drama series Red Shoe Diaries between 1992 and 1997, plays the man living out his fantasy, Robert Troy purchase's a carnival side show that includes an attractive young lady, played by Mia Farrow's sister Tisa, who has been asleep for eight years. Richard Pryor plays a terminally sick alcoholic and Troy’s best friend Jeff. It has been alleged that Pryor drank himself into a daily stupor just to get into the role! Veronica Anderson, who was previously seen in the TV series Colombo in 1972, plays Scarlett's female lover.
Tisa Farrow.

The filming of the movie was plagued with bad luck. A large wooden crucifix fell from the wall in a church and pinned Carol to the floor, she was not badly hurt but Tisa Farrow was not as lucky. She had a fall and broke her arm. Other minor delays and accidents held up the film as well as Carol becoming sick with stomach pains. When the film was finally released it did not get good reviews and is not widely available today. But worth sourcing for Carol White's unusual role as Scarlett.

The Squeeze 1976

This was my fourth film in 2010 EIFF’s Retrospective: After the Wave, which featured lost and forgotten British Cinema between 1967 and 1979. Overlooked by memory and in some cases technology, many films in this section are not available on DVD anywhere in the world including the criminally neglected The Squeeze.

Based on the novel Whose Little Girl Are You by David Craig it tells the story of an alcoholic ex-police inspector Jim Naboth (Stacy Keach) who is drinking himself to death. Naboth’s ex-wife Jill (Carol White) is abducted by sadistic thugs lead by Keith (David Hemmings) and Vic (Stephan Boyd), to force Jill’s current husband (James Fox) to rob his own security firm.

A very good 1970’s crime thriller which has the feel and excitement of an old-fashioned ‘B’ movie, the ones in which censorship was ignored. Keach gives a terrifyingly authentic performance as an alcoholic. Freddie Star, who plays Teddy, the ex-cops best friend and career, is a astounding. Carol White, in a surprisingly frank role gave her normal class performance.

West London plays a big part in the film with location shoots at Notting Hill including the regular carnival that takes place each year and at the West Way junction with its community of social misfits living below. A great build up to a thrilling climax ended this enjoyable cinematic treat.

Carol White 1966.

With your hair so white you could light up the night

Burning out like a shooting star

From the stage to The Squeeze, from T.V. to striptease

I loved you in the back of my car

Nobody's gonna tell you what to do

Nobody's gonna mess around with you
You'll never give up the fight, not Carol White

Cathy come home, where have you been, it's been so long since you went away
From monochrome to the silver screen, the Battersea Bardot, that's what they say

With that smile in your eyes you could tell me no lies
Play it hard, take the smooth with the rough
Just a pearl in world full of users of girls
One jump ahead for a while, not long enough
Nobody's gonna tell you what to do
Nobody's gonna mess around with you
You'll never give up the fight, not Carol White

Carol White – British Film Actress 1943 - 1991 RIP.

[1] Now available on DVD from Network as part of their British Film series.

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